My First Time

As the title of this indicates, it could go many different directions. I will be a good boy and go the drag racing route. This was Burk’s idea so if this column sucks... blame him.

The first time I was ever at a drag race was in the summer of 1962. It had nothing to do with my love of hot rods or racing. It had everything to do with the fact that my tickets were free.

One of my boyhood friends was Tim Stocker and his uncle’s working dairy farm was right next door to Thompson Drag Raceway in Ohio. The track issued free passes to all the neighbors and if your name ended in Stocker you got the VIP treatment. What VIP meant was you could go into the pits and wander around despite the fact that Tim and I were 11 years old. We felt about empowered as an 11 year old could be.

It was love at first sight. It was loud. It was colorful. It was creativity in action. I had no idea what I was looking at but I knew I wanted more of it. I loved the idea that a race was over in seconds and the next one was ready to go. It was semi-controlled chaos.

When a gasser or altered would come to the line I was glued to the fence. They were so weird and most runs were out of control, which made it even better. I had never seen anything like it before. And this was an event with hundreds of entries and most of those were driven or flat towed to the track.  
A few of the more vivid thoughts were:

- The starter used a flag. The following year it changed to an instant-on flash box. The starter was my hero because he was the center of every race. He would point. He would wave his flag and jump at the same time making for a great visual. He was dressed in white pants and shirt and it crossed my mind that his mom was going to be irate when those items hit the wash basket.

- There was little crowd control. Most of the time Tim and I were standing a few feet from the cars and no one cared. There was no guardrail.
- Hot dogs were 25 cents. I ate at least four.
- The pits were dirt and the only road into the track was gravel so a massive layer of dust coated everything. And no one seemed to care.
- Admission was $2 and a pit pass was $1. I think the top cash prize was $50.
- It seemed like everyone smoked.
- This may sound odd, but it was my first real encounter with black people. I was amazed that blacks and whites not only co-mingled, but seemed to enjoy each other. That was not the prevailing thought during the early ’60s. In retrospect, it was probably this first encounter that made me colorblind to race.

It was a day I will never forget. One year later I would start working my dream job at Thompson making $1.00 per hour. I got the job because at age of 12 I was 6’ 1”. It has been a blessing that I have been able to be a part of drag racing history. And I owe it all to Tim Stocker.


- NHRA will come out of gate like a ball of fire then return to attendance mediocrity once everyone understands it’s the same tired program we have been fed year after year. It needs a spark.
- IHRA will probably run out of funding before their “go public” dream becomes reality. The blame game should be epic.
- Drag racing on a sportsman level will see an upsurge -- especially on the local track level.
- The ability to get reasonable insurance on drag racing events will become one of the most dire subjects that need immediate attention.
- Political ads will soon surface and piss us off for the next 2 years.

Race Safe... God Speed.